A Good Beer Blog

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Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments

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Stan Hieronymus -

I think there are some muddy waters here.

Before that, full disclosure. I linked to the 1366 site from Realbeer.com because a UK advertising panel objected to implying Stella had been brewed under the same family since then. I did not mention it at AppellationBeer.com because it wasn't relevant to the mission statement there.

But that is one awesome movie/website, so little wonder that a lot of bloggers chose to mention that. Even Stonich got involved, asking this question in an earlier post: <b>Can marketing campaigns, backing homogenised products from big brewers, do anything to help the cause of quality beer?</b>

I don't think it was as simple as sending bloggers a few coasters and a poster in the mail, or even the link from the Stella blog (probably pretty good traffic).

It's OK to remind bloggers to think about why they do what they do - and who would go to the trouble of keeping up a blog to support beers like Miller Chill? - but let's allow them to write about (and link to) advertising they admire.

For that matter, cringe, to drink Stella if they want.

Stonch -

Stan, just to be clear, I didn't "get involved" at all.

I mused that big ad campaigns which encourage a more sophisticated image for beer might have positive side effects for genuine quality products - but I did not link to InBev's Stella site, instead saying "suffice to say, I don't intend to help promote a product I personally wouldn't drink". For those in doubt, here's the url of the post on my blog Stan is referring to: http://stonch.blogspot.com/2007/09/setting-tone.html

Frankly, I don't think beer blogs should be about advertising writers admire, particularly if the advertising in question promotes a beer like Stella Artois from a brewer like InBev. Beer blogs should be about beer and beer culture. As I said in the article that sparked this off - "people don't visit our websites to read press releases from macrobrewers - the trade press covers that nicely".

Alan -

I don't think I can say what a beer blog should be. But I do think it is important to acknowledge what they can be and might be already - which I think is a big part of Stonch's point. Collectively, they represent a huge readership. Bigger than most trade magazines and more immediately responsive. If we come back to the core element in the entire process, press releases or websites or ads are sideshows to what is in the glass. Heck, even a lot of what is "beer culture" is a bit of a sideshow for me. <p>If some brewer has a wonderful website and crap beer, that should be seen as a foolish misdirection of investment if integrity means anything. If another brewer invests that money in the beer or even in supporting beer blogging or fine beerfests or whatever, they are getting the idea that getting the word out about good beer directly is what getting the word about good beer should be all about.

Travis -

Regarding what a beer blog should or shouldn't be, I would offer that a blog that exists only to promote a product or the blogs sponsors will find itself without any real traffic.

People read blogs for a unique and personal perspective outside of the advertising world. Corporate sponsors want to tap into the legitimacy that blogs have earned by good posting.

To me, that's why Stonch's stance on this is completely correct. Bloggers who choose to take part in things like this for an obvious pay off and pimp products for money, will quickly lose readership and find themselves looking in from the outside in.

I read a lot of tech blogs and I have seen blogs get pegged for this type of activity. The readership lights the bloggers up for selling out.

Fight the power!

Stan Hieronymus -

What if a blogger likes Stella? Individuals keep blogs about all sorts of products they love (and also blogs about those they hate). What if the focus of a blog is simply beer advertising?

Also, Stonch wrote: <i>"Beer blogs should be about beer and beer culture."</i>

While I choose to make mine about that, I think the blogger should have free choice. And writing about advertising is writing about beer culture (that Alan has some doubts about the beer culture part is another discussion).

For one thing, if you are assuming something of a watchdog role - which many bloggers do - then there is the matter of calling companies on advertising that doesn't reflect what's in the glass.

Alan -

I think, then, that is the point. Is someone writing a beer blog post that says "Stella's website rocks!" is as legit as "Stella dupes beer bloggers with brightly coloured baubles to flog website!"?

I do not think advertising is a core part of beer culture anymore than I think it is necessarily a celebrity brewer focused activity or even pub focused one. I question each element that is proposed because I want to think about each one, to make sure it is a reasonable and worthwhile facet. Spending yoiks on a website that has nothing really to do with an actual experience of beer by a brewer that has some questions to answer about its beer for me is at the far edge of the grey zone. I want to diminish the value of selling beer in favour of the beer that sells itself.

Now, that does make me a bit puritanical I admit and a bit snotty about what a beer blog should be. But I do think that a good personal opinion website should be about the personal opinion of the subject matter in question. Parroting press releases is not that, even when the press releases are neato web movies. But thinking about these things is that. So if there is an honest discussion about the role and over the top influence of ads and branding in relation to beer, I can see that as part of beer and culture.

Stonch -

Stan, I'm not trying to adopt a watchdog role! I'm just hoping to use my voice to influence others. In some cases I think I have, in other cases I clearly haven't. No matter. We're having a good discussion here and across at my own site, and I think we should run with it.

Personally I rarely write about beer advertising campaigns or indeed the kind of beer-related news that makes it into the trade press. I suppose I'm interested in "industry news" to a point, but it isn't the focus of what I write about. Here in Britain, the Off Licence News and the Morning Advertiser do that, and doubtless they have their equivalents in other countries including USA and Canada. I will be bold and say I just don't see the point in a beer blog that apes the print media in both content and tone.

Stan Hieronymus -

Stonch, Alan - I've lost track of where I should be writing about this (over at Stonch's? Throw up several hundred words at my blog?) Thinking about beer, blogs and philosophy after a sleep deprived weekend seems too much like work. Stonch wrote:

<i>I will be bold and say I just don't see the point in a beer blog that apes the print media in both content and tone.</i>

I don't see the point in a blog (beer or otherwise) that apes anything (print, etc.).

Again, this is what works for me and I'm all for all bloggers choose their own course, but what Ron Pattinson wrote a little while back makes a perfect mission statement:

"Honest beer is what I want. Beer that can look me straight in the eye and not flinch. Beer with heart. Beer that’s like an old friend. Beer you can sit and drink by the pint in a pub with your mates."

Just insert "to write about" after "what I want."

So if a blogger thinks Stella sucks - or sorts sucks, whatever, it's simply a non-factor in my life - but wants the coasters and traders a link to get them then that bugs me. On the other hand, if somebody chooses to look at the PR information and thinks it is worth writing about then I don't have a problem.

Alan -

Does that perhaps beg the question - "what is honest beer advertising"?

Stan Hieronymus -

Dishonest is easier, of course.

Remember when Miller ran ads that would leave to you believe you could visit the Plank Road Brewery when Icehouse was/is made?

And irrelevant is easy. The Miller Lite "More Taste League" stuff.

Do I get partial credit for those?

Alan -

Interestingly and perhaps somewhat related, Jay has posted a post about reduced "traditional" advertising budgets for the big US brewers.

Paul -

"what is honest beer advertising"?
Honest and advertising don't happily co-exist.
I have a grumble about a real ale brewery and it's advertising - Alan I feel an article coming on !

Jay Brooks -

I tried posting a comment last week, but by my usual verbosity had it running waay too long, even for me, so I gave up and posted my own three cents here:

http://www.brookstonbeerbulletin.com/the-ethical-blogging-debate/

I love this kind of debate.

Cheers,

J

P.S. - Alan, Is that drawing by William Blake?

Alan -

Everything but the cask.

Andy Crouch -

Alan wrote, "Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a parcel full of swag..." and "If the product or the price is not right, shouldn't the answer be "no thanks."

I'm a little confused, and perhaps concerned, about this article. Are you saying that bloggers should be asking for some form of remuneration before writing about a subject, be it a new product or Stella's new website? Perhaps this is the true difference between writers and bloggers and if so, I have to admit to being a bit disheartened at my own naivety. I think that regardless of whether you write for a mainstream magazine or publish your own beer blog, a standard of ethics must prevail. First among them, you cannot have a financial interest in the subject you are covering. That's pretty much Journalism 101. Now the easy out would be if your reply is simply that beer blogging is not journalism. If that is indeed the case, I think that sites need to let their audiences know in advance that there is a good chance they are going to be spoon-fed some PR and paid fluff. I sincerely hope that's not the case. When it comes to objective writing, be it on a beer blog or in a newspaper or magazine, I believe there is something wrong with a parcel of swag.

Best,

Andy Crouch

Alan -

Hi Andy,

Good points so let me elaborate. I would not take funds for a story but I do get offers from PR firms all the time to write about their client's interests - beer fests, movies, products. In response I say that I would not accept that sort of shadow writing but, in any event, it sounds like an ad placement. You will see that I have ads to the upper left and I do take money for those as my level of readership makes such modest support attractive. I then use the money to buy beer that I review.

But I also get swag. I get swag to run contests for fests, brewers or publishers (whether they run ads or not, mainly the latter) which then passed on to the readers. I do get review beers but much of that even goes to my other contributors for their reading as I live in Canada and it can't get it across the border. I keep books that I review. This is described, I understand, in the postings about the contests and reviews if the beer was forwarded.

I encourage all beer bloggers to take this position and seek to have beer support the work of being a beer blogger, to make the relationship with brewers reciprocal. Beer blogging is an interesting innovation in getting information about beer, good and bad, out. It should also be part of the economics of beer. How the individual bloggers does this and how they disclose so is their business but I would always argue that openness promotes both confidence and integrity. Bloggers or other beer writers that do otherwise are pretty obvious - which is sort of the point Stonch and I were making.

I would also point out that you and other paper-based writers about beer (which also includes me) get paid to do that and that pay comes in large part from ad revenue from the same breweries which come offering swag. And it is the case that the more is very much the merrier as all craft beer writing benefits from the rising tide of the market that lifts all boats. Your financial interest may not be specific but it is still direct - and that is good. But managing that is journalism 201, "the publishing business and ethics".

Alan -

Good points. I have blogged for four and half years now on a general stuff site as well as here on the beer blog and I really do not know what blogging is. It is certainly subjective but I also call the other site of mine "a magazine about me" which makes it neither objective nor simply personal. It is even more the case with the beer blog as I present posts by others (about 10%) and do clearly highlight commercial activities whether brewing, fests or books. So in a way I am most like a small town weekly newspaper with no division between the journalists and the publishers.

For me, it boils down to clearly separatating revenue from content and if there is any question, as with the contest material, make it very clear. Interesting, though, real paying advertisers so far have not sought to have me shape the content. And no one has offered to truly buy my soul, sadly. In 2004 I was sure blogging was a step on the road to riches...but so did everyone.

Stonch -

I'm not sure I want to be a journalist. I'm already a lawyer. One despised profession is enough!